Sympathy For the Devil

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

-The Rolling Stones

"Inoue! Stop- it's too much!"

Burnt flesh. Mass. Harsh breaths, and the way they scrap down his skin. Pain. Taking bites, a slow devouring. Fire, fire, fire. Why can't he scream?

"Just a bit more..."


It's when he finally understands that he's looking at a ceiling that he realizes nothing is familiar. This startles him and he jerks upright in the space it takes the occupants of the room to gasp. There is so much color that his eyes ache.

"Ulquiorra?" The voice is concerned and feminine. He swings his gaze to focus on the others inhabiting the small space. Two hostile looking males, and a female, wringing her hands and trying not to cry, all hover around his bedside.

"Woman." Her expression crumples into a nervous relief and then into horror as he finishes speaking. "Who are you?"

Her mouth works soundlessly, and he takes a moment to size up the men- boys, really, now that he has more carefully assessed their ages.

"Shinigami?" He hisses, wondering what prompted him to say it, and why it's filled him with a calm burning. The taller boy with the fierce expression scowls down at his t-shirt in something like bewilderment. The posture of the serious boy with glasses goes from tense to offensive in a matter of seconds.

The woman steps between them as if she was shielding them- or was it him?

"What are you talking about, Ulquiorra?" She laughs anxiously. "Don't you remember your…ah…good friends- Kurosaki and Ishida?" Her voice is pitched high enough to break glass, and the boys are shooting her dubious and confused expressions as she gestures to each when she names them. They don't accuse her of lying. Ulquiorra- he supposes this must be his name, for she's addressed him by it twice- is somewhat skeptical, but for lack of any other explanation, accepts it.

"They're... my friends?" He asks, his tone indicating anything but confidence in that statement.

She nods enthusiastically. "Oh yeah, you three go waaaaay back; I mean, basically to when there were DINOSAURS, and speaking of which-"

"And you?" He interrupts her, studying her face carefully. She balks only for a split second, but it's so obvious to Ulquiorra she may as well have been in slow motion.

"I'm Orihime. I'm...your closest friend. Your best friend." She smiles a bit as she says the latter with more conviction. "That's right. I had to take care of you! After that horrible car accident that killed your family... of ambassadors from Venezula! And put you in a coma! Yeah! I brought you here when they started talking about...y'know..." She is almost giddy as she delivers this sobering news, miming the action of pulling out a plug.

Her two companions seem to notice the disparity between what she is saying and how she is saying it. "Ah...Inoue…you may want to be a bit more…sensitive." Ishida stage-whispers.

Ulquiorra blinks, searches his soul for the strains of grief, and finds none. "And the reason I don't remember any of this?" He asks in the manner one would address a teacher, not a close friend supplying a personal history he has no recollection of.

Orihime's grinning face abruptly composes itself into one of utter seriousness. "Total and complete memory loss due to massive head trauma."

The boys behind her splutter but Ulquiorra merely lifts a brow. He raises a hand to his head to search for an injury, but he finds it resting on his bare chest instead. Why is it so strange that it feels...whole?

Not whole...hollow...

Orihime's fake seriousness smoothes into something more genuine. Scooting closer to the bed, she grips the comforter in hands he can't stop looking at.

"It's better that you don't remember."

Out of all her claims, Ulquiorra thinks that's the lie he believes the least.

It takes a while before he feels strong enough to stand longer than it takes to relieve himself- and even after that, strong enough to leave the apartment. Orihime attends school, works part time, and spends the rest trying to keep up with classes and the time he demands. When she can, she tries to catch him up on the school curriculum he's missing out on. He finds himself biting back his discouragement of this- though the lessons are boring and repetitive, it entertains him to watch her as she focuses all her attention on whatever task she's completing.

If he's lucky, she might fall asleep at his bedside for a bit, where he can observe her in silence, mentally cataloging her features, motivations, even her dream murmurs. He studies her with a curiosity he can't quite rationalize nor subvert.

He feels like he could hate her.

It's Ulquiorra's first day back at school. Orihime takes extra care to cook a special breakfast, and brews him an especially strong cup of tea.

"For energy and health!" She exclaims while he forces the pungent brew down.

She shows him how to knot his tie, and what trains to take, and packs his lunch. He glares at her back all the way to the principal's office and tries not to feel patronized by the whole experience.

After a dull and completely pointless conversation with the head administrator, Ulquiorra is lead to class by an office aide. The teacher greets him warmly, insisting that he introduces himself to the class. He finds he doesn't have much to tell them, but as his gaze wanders around the vacant faces he finds Orihime's in the crowd and stutters in the middle of his sentence. Ichigo glowers at him, but Ulquiorra successfully ignores him.

As he takes a seat, Ichigo's boisterous friend Keigo leans over under the pretense of borrowing a pen.

"Got a thing for Orihime too, huh? Just don't let Ichigo catch you flirting with her! He's a little protective."

Ulquiorra is about to verbally dismiss Keigo's ridiculous notion when he hears a loud 'CRACK!' and finds he has snapped his pencil in two.

"Whoa..." Keigo chuckles. "Remind me to give you a wide berth."

Ulquiorra stares blankly at the broken writing utensil before turning his head to look at his roommate. She's staring dreamily out the window, her head turned away from him. He looks from her to Ichigo, and is startled to see the orange-haired boy has been scowling at him all along.

Ichigo looks away after a moment and Ulquiorra wonders what it was about his glare that made his chest burn.

"You ever going to crack a smile? People are starting to wonder about you." Ichigo sidles close to him as Ulquiorra surveys the bento Orihime packed last night. She's made his favorite today- pickles slathered in cream cheese, wrapped in turkey lunch meat and sliced, with ketchup rice on the side. He chews slowly, and Ichigo makes a face. Ulquiorra has been at school long enough now to understand that most people don't appreciate Orihime's culinary tastes.

"I smile when I am moved to. To do otherwise would be disingenuous. And you're the last person here to be lecturing me on social niceties." Ulquiorra casts Ichigo a sideways glance as he picks out another piece of his lunch with a pair of pink chopsticks accented by white rabbits.

Ichigo hangs his head in exasperation. "The least she could do is get you some appropriate eating utensils or cook you some normal meals. I mean, seriously, it's hard enough getting you to fit in as is..."

Ulquoirra drops all pretenses of disinterest. "Why are you so concerned with my social integration, Kurosaki? If you've known me for so long, wouldn't you be more than aware of my solitary tendencies?"

"I'm only looking out for a friend." Ichigo growls out after a beat.

"You have other friends who lie outside the social norm, and yet, you don't seem to be the slightest bit concerned about their conformity. I'll ask again- why are you so concerned about me?" And under this question, the one Ulquiorra leaves unspoken- 'what are you afraid of?'

Ichigo's eyes narrow dangerously before he catches himself. "Y'know, one thing that hasn't changed- you still really piss me off." He stalks away to join his other classmates by the fence, and Ulquiorra wonders for the first time if maybe they really had been friends.

He finds he has the most in common with Ishida. The quiet boy doesn't demand much of him, and though he's more suspicious than Ichigo, he's less confrontational about it. There are other motivations he has for familiarizing himself with Ishida. Ichigo fastidiously adheres to Orihime's explanation for his presence in Japan and his total absence of memory as do their other acquaintances. (With a name like Ulquiorra? A fatal car wreck that killed ambassadors but no news agency saw fit to report on it?) But Ishida never directly corroborates this- rather, he simply does not comment. He is a man ruled by logic and morals. He is a man Ulquiorra understands, and therefore could manipulate. Currently, he is his only hope for learning the truth.

They spend lunch hours away from most of their classmates, reading or watching his roommate as she laughs and gesticulates. On occasion, Ulquiorra asks leading questions that Ishida answers vaguely until he eventually finds it easier to ignore them altogether. It would be frustrating if Ulquiorra was prone to impatience.

Today, Orihime is visiting a teacher during their lunch break, and the two dark haired boys are the others' only company.

"What was my family like?" Ulquiorra asks.

"I don't know." Ishida states simply, pushing his glasses further up his nose, his gaze focused on his book instead of his impassive companion.

"The woman claims we've been acquainted for some time." Ulquiorra does not allow enough emotion for the statement to be interpreted as challenging, but it seems to aggravate Ishida all the same.

"She has a name, you know. Inoue can be prone to exaggeration."

Ulquiorra appreciates the minimalism of his classmate even as he seeks to disarm it.

"Is there some past transgression between us? Or Kurosaki? Is that why you two are wary of me?" he asks bluntly.

Ishida visibly flinches. Ulquiorra knows he should feel exhilarated to finally have gotten a reaction, but instead he is merely curious.

"Tell me. It's my past, I deserve to know it."

There is a long moment of silence before Ishida finally makes eye contact. The expression in his gaze seems unfamiliar, and Ulquiorra realizes that this may actually be the first time the stoic man has ever looked at him so directly.

"It's true. You did terrible things to Kurosaki, and yes, myself to a lesser degree. But don't mistake that for the reason of our distrust." Ishida's words are hard, unyielding and suddenly Ulquiorra isn't sure he wants to know the rest of what he has to say. "Inoue is at the root of that. Out of all of us, it was her you hurt the most."

Orihime chooses this moment to walk out of the door and towards her friends on the roof. She waves, and the sun glints off her pins before slithering through her hair.

Ulquiorra feels sick and satisfied at the same time- he is always overwhelmed when it relates to her. What kind of monster was he?

If I crack open your skull, will I find it in there?

Ulquiorra is finding it hard to breathe.

"I think it goes without saying that things will not end favorably for you should you choose to repeat your past mistakes. Let's conclude it at that." Ishida turns perfunctorily back to his open book.

"Yeah." Ulquiorra says, and if it comes out a little shaky, Ishida doesn't mention it.

Orihime's legs are thrown over his lap as she fights to keep her eyes open while she lounges on the couch. Ulquiorra, of course, sits totally upright, his back relaxed and slightly rounded. The black and white horror film probably isn't worth this mammoth effort on her part, but Orihime likes to stay up late whenever she has the opportunity and Ulquiorra can't deny there is something appealing about these silent moments of togetherness. They feel almost nostalgic, as if being alone with each other was their most natural state- something he knows predates waking from his "coma".

A yawn has Orihime stretching her arms above her head, and Ulquiorra watches with undisguised fascination as she points and flexes her toes. Sometimes, she is just so ...bizarrely magnetic, so obviously weird and for some reason he just can't seem to become immune to the charm inherent in that. That actually frustrates him more than anything at the moment. He's always more sentimental when they're in the dark.

He remembers what Ishida had said to him earlier that day, and something like regret hardens in his chest. He dislikes her and is drawn to her in turns, but even at his most resentful, the idea of inflicting unnecessary violence seems base to him. Who had he been before, that he would hurt someone who is so obviously benign?

He inhales as the wrongness of that word leaps out at him. The thoughts that tumble through his mind are his, but they're not new- they're remembered. No, she's not benign. She's strong... all-powerful, a paradox, an epidemic. His gaze is torn from the television to focus intensely on her while she watches on, unsuspecting. He can't really understand why he sees her this way, but the sudden admiration and uncertainty he feels as he lets in her beauty isn't unfamiliar. Her body is a storm even as it rests, her features calm, almost graceful.

It's these thoughts, and the attraction that's always on the peripheral of his mind, that bring him to fit his palm to the cap of her knee. She looks at him questioningly, and he hadn't meant to, but he's thinking about how long he's waited to touch her.

"I'm sorry." He says, and the apology sounds awkward- her skin is so shockingly fragile under his fingertips.

She sits up, draws closer, concern clear in eyes that never obscure anything - except for the truths he wants the most. "Why are you apologizing? What's wrong?" Her breath comes out a little too sharp.

"I'm...unsure of the exact reason. But it has been brought to my attention today by one of our friends that I have...hurt you, in the past. I don't remember doing it, but... I find that I dislike the idea of that situation transpiring between us."

Orihime looks relieved for some reason. A self conscious laugh escapes her along with some of her tension. "Ulquiorra... you don't have anything to worry about. Our friends... didn't always understand you." She trails off, looking a little lost. "Neither did I, for a while. But now, I know why you did the things you did. And it's nothing you could help."

"Why won't you tell me?" Ulquiorra finds himself demanding against his own volition. His hand fists on her leg.

She presses her lips together and leans in. "No- it doesn't matter. That's all. That's the only reason."

"Whatever I did, it's reason enough to earn the persistent suspicion of your friends." Ulquiorra argues, and he's surprised to feel some irritation over it.

"They just need time." She moves a hand towards his face, and he blinks fast and hard- the closest he comes to flinching.

It's almost as if he froze her. Both her hand and her breath stop for one awful heartbeat.

"Why did you do that?" She asks, too measured and careful, withdrawing her fingers into her palm.

There is an ache in his chest, specific and concentrated, that has turned into a painful burning. He flexes his fingers on it, through his shirt, and decides not to tell Orihime.

"I don't know." He answers finally.

She nods, and gets up without further comment. Ulquiorra watches her walk barefoot across the room, the forgotten movie throwing grotesque images across her retreating figure as she turns the corner. He listens to her footsteps until he hears her bedroom door close. Rising from the couch, he turns off the T.V. and prepares to bed, ignoring the throbbing pulse in his chest. Their sudden distance is like a slap in the face.

Orihime wears tiny shorts to bed. The only reason Ulquiorra knows this is because he's walked into the kitchen earlier than usual and she hasn't shut herself in the bathroom yet to get ready for school. She's got her front half bent over and shoved into the fridge, no doubt searching for some form of breakfast. The back half is sticking out, scantily clad, and extremely soft looking. He stops dead in his tracks, both horrified and appreciative of the view as he is forcefully reminded that he is a male in possession of a sex drive.

She's wiggling her hips in time to her own humming.

His collars feels like a noose, and his jacket suddenly weighs fifty pounds. Normal everyday desires- breakfast, peace and quiet, more sleep- darken and take on a hungry edge. He craves the pressing- of her against the counter, of himself against those tiny shorts, his tongue against her lips.

She straightens, and turns around only to be surprised into dropping the mustard. "Oh, Ulquiorra! You startled me! Why didn't you say anything?!"

He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. She doesn't wear a bra to bed either.

Oblivious, she glances at the clock. "Wow, I'm running later than I thought! Guess we're buying lunch today!".

In the empty kitchen, Ulquiorra finally gets his vocal chords to work.

"Good morning." It sounds more like a curse than a greeting.

They take the train instead of walking, and in the morning hour rush, Orihime's back is crushed against his front in an extremely pleasing way. It's quiet except for the occasional hushed exchange, and Ulquiorra can only hope his pounding heart isn't audible to his roommate. He thinks about this morning, about touching her, of bringing his arms around her body. Almost as if she had read his mind, she slowly, so slowly, rests her head on his shoulder. His lips thin as the smell of her shampoo reaches him. Even though there is not a single centimeter of space, Ulquiorra clears his throat and takes a step back. Orhime's head shoots up and she blinks sleepily. They don't acknowledge each other the rest of the way to school.

She is naked and standing before him, her brilliant hair sharp against the rose of her skin. He tries to swallow but his mouth is too dry to be successful. He wants her badly, a dangerous fascination driving the relentless sweep of his eyes across curves so lush it weakens his knees with yearning. His gaze settles on the bared hollow of her throat, a sight that threatens to drive him mad.

She silently allows his appraisal, and a poignant sense of gratitude makes his breath catch.

"I know you completely." She says in low, bold tones- ones she never speaks in.

Yes, his entire self seems to agree.

"You were imperfect and so I undid you. Then I created you again in my image because it pleased me." Her words bring the remembrance of first a slow suffering, then an excruciating explosion of agony. He covets her every exhalation.

Ulquiorra has never felt a fear or lust so intense, so consuming.

"You worshipped a false idol. I am your true maker." Her flawless mouth does not smile. "I am God."

He crawls to her reverently on hands and knees, and wakes panting and sweating, his heart threatening to burst from his chest, his groin tight with need. He cannot seem to control his respiration. Shoving himself into his clothing, he thinks only that he wants to escape.

He opens his door to find the subject of his dreams sitting across the hall, her back to the wall. She looks up from the cradle of her arms, surprised.

"Did I disturb you?" She asks, her hands dashing away tracks of tears from her cheeks in a seemingly casual action.

"Yes. No." Ulquiorra's agitation is visible and his urge for flight leans heavy against his instinct to prioritize Orihime's obvious distress. He can tell the instant she realizes something is off. She assesses him openly and rises to her feet- the hunted feeling within him wells up at the back of his throat.

"You're dressed." She states blankly. "It's 2am."


"Don't go." She interjects suddenly. "Don't leave." After a pause- "Please."

Ulquiorra's sense of panic has not abated. He knows that even though she's asking, he really has no choice. "I can't." he grounds out. "I can't leave. You keep me... as if I am a pet."

Her eyes widen with reproach at that statement, and possibly his bluntness as well, but Ulquiorra feels anything but reticent at the moment. He keeps his voice even and controlled despite the emotions roiling beneath his skin. "You lie to me about my past but you demand truth from me. You permit to me stay here without explanation, but I have no where else to go. You obligate our friends into keeping secrets from me and then wonder why they don't trust me. I'm trapped. There are so many things, every day, to think about and process and I understand nothing. It's overwhelming, sometimes torturous. I have no respite, no solace."

Orihime's gaze hardens unpredictably. "I haven't imprisoned you..." She accuses and it feels distinctly personal.

"You have!" Ulquiorra insists vehemently, his control fraying at the persistence of his distress. A frustrated fist slams against his sternum, above his heart. "You cage me more effectively than if I were jailed."

She sucks in a sharp breath at the words and gesture. She looks concerned. "Ulquiorra... what do you remember?" The question is so unbelievably insensitive and offensive to him that the last of his composure slips away without a fight.

"Nothing!" He shouts and rips fingers through his dark hair even as he knows that's not entirely true. Resentment drips off of every word."I was nothing, so I am nothing!"

She stays silent for a long time on the heels of his outburst. Slowly, she slides down the wall until she's crouching, her arms weaving around her knees. Her body language and the way she refuses to meet his eyes reeks of submission. He huffs in exasperation, prompting her to look at him again. "We were like this, once before." She confesses and Ulquiorra is shocked she has volunteered information. "Keeper and captive." She elaborates.

"I don't understand." He states hesitantly. Orihime's unexpected response has diffused the worst of his anger, but he's still reeling from the rollercoaster of emotions. He joins her on the other side of the hall, gingerly sitting next to her. "We were in prison?"

Her smile is mysterious. "Something like that. You're not nothing, Ulquiorra."

His heart thrills at his name, and it disgusts him that her effect is not mitigated even by his conflicted feelings. He considers ignoring her, but finds he cannot bring himself to do so. "You don't need to reassure me. Oblivion does not seem unpleasant." He admits, though he does not feel like being charitable towards her at the moment.

Her fingers thread through his without warning, and he experiences a moment of unguarded bliss. He's surprised by the pain in her eyes. "I know." She smiles despite it. "I know that, now."

Her other hand comes up to rest over his chest. "What is the heart?" She asks sadly. It sends an unexpected jolt of recognition through him.

"Who was the keeper?" He asks abruptly, but he already knows the answer even before she confirms it.

She looks away, her expression suggesting she was somewhere else mentally, but she does not withdraw her touch. "You were." Her eyes were focused somewhere over his shoulder. "I have nightmares, still." She comes back to reality, and adjusts her gaze to meet his. "Everything was white." Her eyes look like he feels.

Ulquiorra still doesn't understand enough, not nearly enough, but this is more information than she has given him in months, so he doesn't push her verbally. Instead, he pulls her physically, his arms clumsily circling her shoulders and jerking her into an embrace that quickly morphs into a mutual clutching. She starts crying as soon as her face smacks into his shoulder, and a distant part of his mind notes that he expected her seemingly unprovoked outburst. Her muffled sobbing wears at him in a way that unsettles him deeply. His fingers clench in her hair as hers grasp desperately at the material of his t-shirt. When things are this dark, at such a late and quiet hour, it makes Ulquiorra feel like they're the only two people left in the whole world.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" She sobs miserably. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know."

He closes his eyes and presses his face into the crown of her head. When her cries soften into sniffles, and then slow quiet breaths, he shifts his hold and picks her up. They're both silent as he carries her down the hall to her bedroom, no words exchanged even when he lays her gently on her bed. His mouth hesitates above hers as he pulls away, long enough for her eyes to widen, but he follows through on his withdrawal.

He doesn't look back when he closes her door.

She's gone the next morning before he wakes up. He finds a bento on the table for him though, and a pot of hot coffee waiting on the stove, so her absence is a sting instead of an ache. He drinks the dark and bitter brew, indulges in a few thoughts of a similar persuasion, and then puts them aside with his mug.

In class, the dark circles under her eyes confirm last night was without rest, but she still gives him a smile with full wattage. He understands she's apologizing. He nods, but for some reason as he settles his gaze on the blackboard, he feels restless- dissatisfied with school, her, this life. He internally acknowledges this is unfair, despite her continual reluctance to speak about his past. After all, hadn't she worked her fingers to the bone while he was sick? Hadn't she fed him, clothed and sheltered him, facilitated his educational opportunities? Taken care of him when in some instances, she didn't even take proper care of herself? At every turn, he spurned and resented her kindness, without any concrete evidence as to why he should be nothing but immensely grateful. She gives him everything, asks for nothing...

It's with these thoughts fresh in his mind and reconciliation in his heart that he alters their routine and goes to the library instead of back to the apartment while she is in sewing club, his intention to walk her home afterwards.

When he hears her screams, he goes barreling towards them immediately, his usual precaution absent and a desperate edge to his features.

He rounds the corner in time to see Kurosaki's arm nearly slashed through by a terrible beast, though his grip never falters on the enormous sword he wields.

And then, with a sense of utter and complete familiarity, he sees Orihime calmly rest her beautiful hands on her hairclips and utter a phrase that sounds as natural as his own voice. "Shun Shun Rika."

He isn't surprised when he sees the shield materialize around the boy's arm, or the logic defying speed with which the flesh mends together.

He is surprised when the monster knows his name.

"Ulquiorra! It can't be!" The thing howls in tones that barely register as words.

His body feels like it is vibrating. The spot over his heart aches all the way through, the pain almost overriding his ability to speak. He is not scared. He looks at the hideous creature and thinks 'trash'.

Orihime and Kurosaki wheel around in horror, almost as if in slow motion, their distorted expressions satisfying the dark place in him that only now seems completely normal, right even. His skin burns with coldness.

The beast throws its' head back in grotesque laughter at Ulquiorra's lack of response. It peters off into a malicious grin. "I wouldn't have believed it if I wasn't seeing it. You really think you're a human, don't you? The Shinigami whore has tamed you, number 4."

Ulquiorra's jaw clenches, and an unnatural sound seethes through his teeth. He vaguely hears Kurosaki yelling to Orihime- "Go! Get him out of here!"- before she grabs his hand and runs. He is yanked into motion, his body responding without independent thought. They run for blocks, past familiar landmarks, but in his mind, Ulquiorra is running through memories.

This eye of mine sees everything.

Their shoes slap heavy against the pavement.

Primal hunger and fear. Wandering. Loneliness.

He feels a pressure building in him, around him.

Power gifted to him from a beautiful man who sought to debase him into a tool.

Her accelerated breathing escapes her in feminine gasps.

The vibrancy of her hair- how she was the most brilliant thing he had ever laid eyes on, even knowing that she was worthless.

They race past the bus stop.

Come with me, woman.

The ice cream shop.

She was the only warm body in Hueco Mundo- an intrigue and a defilement.

People dining outside a restaurant stare as they whip past.

The whispers of the others.

"She is a sickness."

"Hollows lose all reason around her."

"Even Ulquiorra struggles with her mind games."

She never stops moving.

Her solitary shape under an unchanging moon, hands clenched together.

Never lets go.

The crack of her hand against his cheek, a blow he allowed her to land.

Until the apartment door is before them.

Her soft cries through the wall.

She fumbles the lock.

His final release.

Shoves him inside.

Killing Ichigo, and then witnessing her resurrect an animal in his place.

She's panting, hunched over inside the dark foyer, arms still braced on his chest.

Her hands, reaching but never grasping.

She looks up.

The sweet, sad look in her eyes.

Her pupils dilate, and her eyes round in disbelief. Her mouth hangs open a moment before it forms words.

"Your face. Your reiatsu- I can feel it..."

Without explanation, her fingers drop to the buttons on his uniform shirt, frantically undoing them. Ulquiorra watches dispassionately as she accidentally pops one off. She stops when she's halfway down his sternum, spreading the material to expose his upper chest. He knows what she's looking for now, and knows her fears are confirmed when he hears her choke back a distressed sob. He glances down to the familiar sight of his hollow hole. His tattoo is conspicuously absent.

She composes herself and withdraws her touch, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. "I don't understand." She keens to herself, gaze glued to the floor.

"You were arrogant to assume you could reject the most basic element of my existence and still give me life." He states bluntly.

He knows she must assume the appearance of his hollow hole indicates the return of his memories, but when she meets his eyes again, shock radiates from her expression down to the way she holds herself. He realizes this is the first time they've communicated on equal footing in a very, very long time. The longer they look at each other the more palpable the longing in her expression becomes.

"You violated the realm of God. The order of how things are supposed to be." Ulquiorra accuses without heat. "You violated my own wishes."

She shrinks in on herself. "I thought ... I was helping you. I wanted... to give you a second chance. To protect you."

"You were selfish." He responds harshly. "And frightened. Just like the other time."

She visibly flinches at the rebuke. Anger floods her face. He can feel her spiritual energy pushing on his. He wonders if she will try to strike him again.

Instead she draws herself tall. "No." She says with an iron voice. "I'm not denying that I can be selfish and scared, or that those things can motivate me as much as love and concern. But when I resurrected you, all I thought about... all I could see... was how you reached your hand out..." She leaves it at that. They both know what transpired.

"I don't believe you." Ulquiorra accuses. "You were too scared to even tell me what I am."

"WAS!" Even in her feminine voice, Orihime's shout is deafening, and Ulquiorra takes a step back in response. She continues in a volume only slightly reduced, chest heaving with effort. "You woke up with no memory! A clean slate! How could I put you through that? How could I make your second life about pain, knowing how much you'd already suffered?" Tears slide down her cheek and dripped off her chin. "Don't you know how much it cost me? How much I missed you, when you were right in front of me?"

Ulquiorra knows he can respond to Orihime's outburst in a myriad of ways- about how believing he was human is his definition of suffering, or how nice it was that she decided without his input to be his own personal martyr- but his breath is too caught up in his throat to think about speaking.

"When I realized what I had done to you... that instead of helping you, I trapped you into a body and existence that was torturous..." Her lower lip trembles. "I realized that I'm no better than Aizen." She starts to reach for him, but then drops her hands. "But even that I failed at. No matter what I do... everything divides us."

Silence stretches before them like a chasm. He wants to reach across it.

So he does.

"Orihime." He rasps, the first time he's ever said her name, ever. It feels like he's waited both his lives for it.

Suddenly feeling like he needs to deflect her attention from that fact, Ulquiorra clasps her face in his hands, and dips his own down towards it. His fingers tremble on her jaw, and the heart he shouldn't still possess hammers wildly against his ribcage.

Their lips are inches apart when she exhales gently. "You killed Ichigo."

Ulquiorra does not budge a millimeter. "So did you."

Her eyes do not fill with tears. "I love him."

Envy twists a knife in his chest. He won't say it, but as his focus fastens on her lips, he thinks 'My dying wish was to know you'. Instead of voicing his thoughts, he flicks his gaze back to hers and says "I know." This seems to settle something for her, so she stretches up on her tiptoes to close the last little gap between their mouths; things other than his jealousy are inflamed.

The thrills running over his nerve endings compare to nothing else- not fighting, not winning, not killing. His arms snake around her back and drag her to him, the curves of her body coming flush against the planes of his. He groans when her tongue touches his and he can taste the cinnamon gum she had chewed earlier. His hold is a vice around her body, but even his shaky, desperate grip can't stop her from undulating beautifully against him, her breathy exhales doing unspeakable things to his pulse. Her teeth come out against his lower lip and up his jawline. Her tongue follows the line of his neck.

Ulquiorra has been weary, hungry, empty and alone and still he has not known a need like this. Orihime plays him like an instrument, and he responds to every masterful slide of her fingertips, every twitch of her limbs. As their clothes fall, so does Ulquiorra. On his knees, he worships her body as if it were an alter, her deep throated moans a prayer he draws from her lips over and over. She settles him over her and he gasps as his body surges into hers. Ulquiorra imagines he knows what drowning feels like.

"I dreamt you were God." He whispers into her milky throat with reverence.

She laughs and rakes her nails down his back. Her legs clamp around his waist. "That's not who I am."

Ulquiorra doesn't know why, but these words make him come. She follows him right after, back arched, mouth open wide. She looks feral and powerful, and Ulquiorra feels humbled that he is privy to such a display.

As she struggles to catch her breath, he pulls himself up on his forearms so he can softly kiss her throat, her ear, her cheek. She keeps her eyes open when he bends to kiss her mouth. He pulls back to look at her. Her expression is unreadable.

"I won't leave." He blurts out.

Her passive face immediately crumbles into a look of utter rawness. She draws him into her arms, her hair fanned around her. Ulquiorra surrenders to her fierce embrace, breathes in her scent, and fixes his gaze on the perfect crescent moon outside of her window.

AN: Well, I don't know if I'm satisfied with this story, but I just couldn't look at it any more. If I get a second wind, I may update this to post a (better) edited version. That being said, I hope you enjoyed it! :) Thanks for reading.